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USDA report: Pesticide residues on food well below amounts dangerous to humans

economic-forecast-headerAny pesticide chemical residue found on samples of various foods tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture fell below levels that could pose a safety risk, according to findings released earlier this year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service posted data in January from its 2014 Pesticide Data Program Annual Summary that confirms overall pesticide chemical residues found on the foods tested are at levels below the tolerances established by the Environmental Protection Agency and do not pose a safety concern. Details, along with an explanatory guide for consumers, can be found atams.usda.gov/pdp.

The 2014 PDP Annual Summary shows that over 99 percent of products sampled had residues below the EPA tolerances. Residues exceeding the tolerance were detected in 0.36 percent of the samples tested. The PDP pesticide residue results are reported to Food and Drug Administration and EPA, and in instances where a finding might pose a safety risk, those agencies are notified immediately.

Each year the USDA and EPA work together to identify foods to be tested on a rotating basis. In 2014, foods on which surveys were conducted included fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, oats and rice. The AMS partners with cooperating state agencies to collect and analyze residue levels on selected foods.

Specific types of produce tested in 2014 included apples, blueberries, broccoli, carrots, celery, cherries, green beans, nectarines, peaches, strawberries, summer squash, sweet corn, tomatoes and watermelon.

“Each year, the Pesticide Data Program uses rigorous sampling and the most current laboratory methods to test a wide variety of domestic and imported foods. Again, the resulting data in this year’s report gives consumers confidence that the products they buy for their families are safe and wholesome,” said Dr. Ruihong Guo, deputy administrator of the AMS Science and Technology Program.

Dr. Susan Mayne, director of the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition said the PDP “plays an essential role in ensuring the safety of the U.S. food supply. … By providing an accurate assessment of pesticide levels in the most commonly consumed commodities in America, the PDP generally confirms the U.S. food supply is safe with respect to pesticide chemical residues.”

Tony Banks, assistant director of commodity marketing for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, said the PDP “provides consumers with a very transparent look at the safety of our foods from the perspective of pesticide residues—or, more appropriately, lack of pesticide residues. When residues were identified in less than half of 1 percent of the samples, the majority of instances occurred at levels below established government tolerance levels that already have a built-in safety factor of 100.

“Some special interest groups expect zero pesticide residues and will claim our food is unsafe or dirty,” Banks said. “That’s just not the case; our food is safe to eat.”

Since its inception, the PDP has tested 113 commodities, including fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meat and poultry, grains, fish, rice, specialty products and water.